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Adult themes: Amy Schumer finally acts her age in Life & Beth on Disney+

Navigating the strange netherworld of latish-night free-to-air TV recently, I found myself caught in the headlights of Comedy Central's Roast of Charlie Sheen.

Although investing any of your precious and increasingly fragmented viewing time on such specials isn't advisable, this one, at least, reminded me of two important things: there is no hope for humanity and Amy Schumer is rather excellent.

These days, the American comedian is a seasoned veteran of the entertainment industry and has "returned" (post-marriage, child) to our screens with new series Life & Beth, now streaming on Disney+.

Amy Schumer created and stars in Life & Beth. Picture: Disney+

Amy Schumer created and stars in Life & Beth. Picture: Disney+

Schumer flexes her considerable talents via this Hulu original, which sits nicely with a number of recent offerings whereby we get to watch, in full schadenfreude mode, smug Generation-Y finally get its midlife comeuppance - something we've all been waiting for ever since HBO brought out Girls a decade ago.

Not only is 40-year-old Schumer the creator and star of the heavily autobiographical Life & Beth (Schumer's middle name is Beth), in this instance, her roles also include writer, director and executive producer.

But before Schumer was helming quality dramedies, she was a young, untested comedian selected to spar with the big boys (including former boxer and convicted rapist Mike Tyson) on that Charlie Sheen roast way back in 2011.

Schumer was an unknown when she took off the gloves and unleased at Charlie Sheen's roast in 2011. Picture: Getty Images

Schumer was an unknown when she took off the gloves and unleased at Charlie Sheen's roast in 2011. Picture: Getty Images

A roast is a poisoned-chalice gig because the no-holds-barred concept is so dangerous, especially since the curtain was pulled back on a format which, traditionally and sensibly, was left to fester away in the rank, cigar-chewed, back-room bowels of such institutions as New York's Friars Club.

Roast participants are expected to take the gloves off and pillory the guest of honour and their fellow comedians relentlessly. The more extreme the level of abuse, the better. Inevitably, such stand-up sadism manages to offend someone - that's the point.

When Schumer was invited to take to the podium and join in with the evisceration of Sheen, she was mocked as a complete unknown, but by the time she was blithely high-heeling her way back to her seat, she was the only person in the room.

Schumer plays Beth Jones, a wine sales rep who finds herself at the crossroads of career and love. Picture: Disney+

Schumer plays Beth Jones, a wine sales rep who finds herself at the crossroads of career and love. Picture: Disney+

Schumer stunned her hard-nose contemporaries with a short, savage set that not only sent a heckling Tyson to the canvas ("Is his interpreter here?"), but put the audience's jaw firmly on the floor with a joke about the car-crash death of a fellow roaster's friend.

Suddenly, the comedy world was taking notice and Schumer used her newfound notoriety to kickstart a career which would include her own TV series, best-selling books and a number of film projects, each varying in degrees of quality and necessity.

Throughout it all, Schumer's schtick was self-deprecation coupled with a certain shock tactic whereby she approached such topics as sex and singledom through an unapologetic female lens, often stained with the coaster ring of last night's bender.

Now, with Life & Beth, Schumer (who's slated as a host for Monday's Oscars ceremony) hasn't lost any of that self-deprecation but she has shed much of the shock and her latest product benefits from this getting of wisdom.

Beth falls for plain-speaking groundskeeper John (Michael Cera), a character loosely based on Schumer's real husband. Picture: Disney+

Beth falls for plain-speaking groundskeeper John (Michael Cera), a character loosely based on Schumer's real husband. Picture: Disney+

Schumer plays Beth Jones, a sales rep for a middling wine distributor who finds herself at the crossroads of career and love. Despite the fact Beth tries to convince herself she has cool job, an apartment and a boyfriend who's a "New York 8/9", she's unsettled and vaguely aware something is off, as if the clock is ticking on the fulfilment of her potential. Her anxiety is highlighted through her strangely competitive and prickly relationship with her mother and Beth seeks regular sanity check-ins with her sister.

It's through Beth's job we're also reminded of the casual intrusion of alcohol into everyday life, a sly normality called out when she visits her doctor, played by musician David Byrne.

A death in the family quickly upends everything and Life & Beth shifts from what might have been another exploration of a woman battling the challenges of the city to the no-less-cliched narrative device of a homecoming story.

Like HBO's still applicable and still outstanding series Six Feet Under or such celluloid pastorals as This is Where I Leave You, Beautiful Girls or Garden State, by returning to her childhood environment (this time, the Long Island of her real-life youth) Schumer gets to renegotiate the elements which shaped her present as much as partake in the peace-making process which will enable her to pursue her future.

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Beth's back story grows in poignancy, too, as we learn she was a teenage member of a family which suffered the financial trauma and social ignominy of a hard-thudded coming down in the world and, through flashbacks, Life & Beth takes on the extra dimension of a coming-of-age story.

Like Beth herself, many of the characters in her orbit seem to be barely keeping it together - a funeral director on a deleterious fasting diet, a rabbi with a social media addiction, a bellicose winery owner on medication - and she finds a much-needed antidote to all this friction in the spectrum-dancing directness (Schumer's husband is autistic) of Michael Cera's grounded groundskeeper.

As well as often being very funny, Life & Beth is well worth our time because it represents what should hopefully be the midway marker of a genuinely interesting career.

If only Schumer can avoid the roast.

This story Smug Generation-Y finally gets its midlife comeuppance first appeared on The Canberra Times.